Harm addiction to the human brain. What happens to the brain when drugs get into it? What harm do drugs have on their nerve cells? What parts of the brain are made up, what functions do they perform, and how does harm to drug addiction manifest itself in relation to them? What are neurons, and how is information exchanged between them? What drugs "deceive" neurons, and which overload channels of communication between them? How do drugs disrupt the communication system between neurons? What is the limbic system, and which of the "hormones of happiness" does it sing out? What is a down-regulation? How does the addictive effect develop and addiction develops? Drug dependence occurs in the body or in the mind? Are there effective methods of drug treatment? Is it possible to determine that a person is a drug addict?
Meet your brain!
The brain is a kind of "control center" for the whole organism. The brain controls all your actions, even when you are sleeping. The brain weighs about 1.5 kilograms and consists of several parts that work all together, like one team. Each part of the brain has its important functions, and the harm of addiction can be so strong that at best these functions will fail, and in the worst case they will refuse to work at all.
When drugs enter the brain, its normal functioning is disturbed - the harm of drugs does its tricky business and the brain can no longer function as usual. Changes that occur in the brain can lead to the fact that a person begins to use drugs again and again - and develops drug addiction or alcoholism.
Drug use in large doses undoubtedly has significant harm and has the most negative impact on the most important parts of the brain. Which parts of the brain are the most important, and what functions do they perform?
- The brain stem is responsible for all the functions necessary for the life-support of the body - breathing, blood circulation and digestion of food. This part of the brain also connects the brain to the spinal cord, which is located along the back and controls the movement of the muscles, as well as the arms and legs. In addition, the spinal cord sends signals to the brain about what happens to the body. The harm of drug addiction, for example, heroin addiction, can manifest itself in the form of a lethal outcome, which can be caused by the blocking of the respiratory center due to a drug overdose. Roughly speaking, the body will forget how to breathe, and the addict who has taken too much of a heroin dose dies.
- The limbic system unites several parts of the brain controlling our emotions into one, such as, for example, the pleasure that we receive when we eat chocolate. Pleasant feelings cause us the desire to repeat the action that caused them - and this is good because the food is vital to the body.
- The cerebral cortex is the outer part of the brain, which has a shape similar to a fungus and is called a gray matter. The human cortex is very large - its weight is almost three-quarters of the weight of the entire brain. The cerebral cortex is divided into four parts, or the parts that perform different functions - give us the opportunity to see, feel the touch, hear and taste. The front of the cortex, which is called the frontal cortex or the forebrain, is responsible for thinking and controls our ability to think, plan, solve problems and make decisions. The harm of drug addiction with special force can manifest itself in the violation of precisely this function - the function of decision-making. Drugs, especially those strong as heroin or methamphetamine, instantly paralyze the will and destroy the decision-making system. From now on, the addict has one problem: where and how to get the drug? And all the solutions are to do it.
How does the brain transmit and receive messages?
The brain is a complex communication system, consisting of billions of nerve cells, also called neurons, which are networked - neural networks. Neural networks allow the brain and spinal cord, as well as the nervous system, to exchange various signals among themselves. These neural networks control all our feelings, thoughts and actions.
- Neurons are nerve cells, which in your brain are about 100 billion. Neurons receive and send messages without interrupting their work for a second. Inside the neuron, messages move in the form of electrical impulses, moving from the body of the neuron to its processes - the so-called axons. Each axon has a terminal site, called the axon terminal. From there, the message is sent to other neurons with the help of special chemicals - the so-called neurotransmitters (also called neurotransmitters).
- Neurotransmitters are special chemical compounds of the brain, chemical intermediary agents designed to transmit messages between neurons. For one neuron (let's call its transmitter) to send a message to another neuron (call its receiver), the neuron transmitter creates chemical agents-intermediaries-neurotransmitters (neurotransmitters). The axon of the neuron-axon axon releases these neurotransmitters, and they move to the neuron receiver through a space called the synaptic cleft, which is part of the so-called synapse, the contact site of two neurons. Further neurotransmitters of the neuron-transmitter communicate with receptors of the neuron-receiver.
- Receptors are chemicals that receive signals. Once neurotransmitters of the neuron-transmitter reach the neuron-receiver, they (neurotransmitters) attach to certain areas of the neuron-receiver, which are called receptors. Neurotransmitters and these receptors interact with each other like a key and a lock, the perfect mechanism of which ensures that each receptor transmits an appropriate message from the neurotransmitter contacting it further to the body of its neuron receiver only after interacting with the correct type of neurotransmitter necessary to it.
- Carriers are the chemicals responsible for the return of neurotransmitters. After neurotransmitters have performed their function, they return back to their neuron with the help of special chemical compounds - vectors. After this, the connection between the two neurons ceases.
To send a message, a neuron releases a chemical compound (neurotransmitter) into a synaptic cleft - a space that separates the two neurons. The neurotransmitter crosses the synaptic cleft and ends up on the protein portion (receptor) of another neuron receiving the signal. This causes certain changes in the receiving neuron, and the message from the transmitting neuron, thus, can be considered delivered.
Harm drugs. What drugs do with the brain?
Drugs are chemicals that, even with a single take, can cause irreparable harm. For example, after only one single dose, the most neurotoxic synthetic MDMA drug (Ecstasy) damages the serotonin system of the brain to such an extent that it never returns to its original state. Getting into the brain, drugs disrupt the signal transmission system, interfering with the order of sending, receiving and processing information by nerve cells. All drugs act on the brain in different ways, because they have different chemical composition. The effect of some drugs on the brain continues even after the person stops using them. Sometimes the harm of drugs turns out to be extremely strong, and the process of brain destruction becomes irreversible. Of course, if you take drugs regularly, it will happen with a higher probability.
Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, activate neurons, as their chemical composition is similar to the composition of true neurotransmitters. Thus, these drugs can "deceive" the neuronal receptors, triggering their activation, but the problem is that these substances act differently from real neurotransmitters, and neurons begin to randomly send signals throughout the brain that do not actually exist necessity. Other drugs, such as amphetamine, methamphetamine or cocaine, cause nerve cells to secrete too many natural neurotransmitters, while disrupting their process of recycling in the brain. This leads to a particularly strong exchange of messages between neurons and ultimately causes serious harm to the brain communication channels. The work of the brain in normal mode and under the influence of the drug in this case differ in much the same way as the sound of a quiet whisper and the sound of a loud scream. Thus, the harm of drugs for the brain is concluded, at best, in a mild violation of the system of signaling between neurons, and in the worst case, in its serious damage - partial or complete.
The use of any drug - alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc. affects the center of motivation of behavior, which is responsible for satisfaction from the performance of an action and is part of the so-called limbic system. This part of the brain reacts to pleasant sensations, highlighting a neurotransmitter called dopamine (one of the three so-called happiness hormones, the other two are serotonin and endorphin). Dopamine creates a sense of pleasure and sends a signal to the brain that something nice and good has been done, that it is necessary to pay attention to this and that it must be remembered. The action of drugs disrupts the normal order of this process, because after their use, too much dopamine is formed, moreover, dopamine is significantly longer than with the enjoyment of other things. Excess dopamine leads to the development of a state of euphoria, which often occurs in a person after taking drugs. The abuse of this process results in what constitutes harm to drug addiction.
Harm of addiction. How does drug dependence develop?
Remember how you feel if something good happens - for example, when your favorite team wins an important match or when you are praised for a job well done? All your sensations at this moment are the result of the limbic system. Getting pleasure from various sensations and events is a very important part of our life, that's why, creating positive emotions, the limbic system makes us again and again look for something that can please us. The harm of addiction, starting its insidious destructive expansion into your body and managing your destiny, painfully exploits this fact.
When a person first takes a drug, it usually experiences incredibly strong pleasant sensations, joy and pleasure. Positively and actively stimulated the center of motivation behavior, which transmits signals to the brain with the help of dopamine. Of course, drug use can have a different effect. The harm of drugs manifests itself immediately, at the time of their first use. For example, those who first try to smoke, often cough in a strong cough, they vomit and even vomit under the influence of toxic substances that are contained in tobacco or marijuana.
But, after starting to use the drug regularly, after a while the body is definitely adapted. The dose of the drug, resulting in the first time of reception to a clearly expressed poisoning, is now perceived by the body absolutely normal, although the degree of intoxication does not decrease, but even vice versa. However, despite regular poisoning, serious changes are beginning to occur in the brain under the influence of a constant excess of neurotransmitters. The limbic system constantly produces dopamine, and neurons constantly receive more dopamine than usual. The harm of addiction is that neurons can begin to reduce the number of receptors that react to dopamine, or simply produce less dopamine themselves. As a result, the brain receives less dopamine signals - scientists call this decreasing regulation . At the same time, many neurons die under the influence of narcotic substances, since drugs are a powerful poison.
As a result, the ability of dopamine to activate the centers responsible for pleasant sensations, is significantly reduced. A person becomes indifferent to everything, nothing pleases him, he falls into a depression that can even lead to suicide. Life without drugs seems to be devoid of all colors. Now this person needs drugs to normalize the level of dopamine in the brain, however, in order to cause an excess of dopamine and, accordingly, the same strong euphoria that a person experienced the very first time, more and more doses of drugs are required - this is what is called the addictive effect . The harm of addiction is rapidly gaining momentum. Under the influence of changes that occur in the structure of the brain, a person seeks to take drugs again and again, without thinking about the consequences and without stopping at anything - he steals, loses friends and work, quarrels with relatives. In addition, serious health problems, including mental ones, begin - all this is drug addiction , i.e. addiction.
Despite the fact that today we know exactly what is happening to the brain in the course of the onset of drug dependence, it is impossible to determine how many times a person needs to take a drug in order to become dependent on it. Genetic and social factors play an important role here. After all, genes make us what we are, and the social component determines the environment in which we live. Precisely, one thing can be said: all who take drugs are at great risk of becoming dependent on them and do not want to think about the consequences of drug addiction.
Harm of addiction. Dependence on drugs is an informed choice?
Of course, a person can start taking drugs voluntarily, but if you continue to use them for some time, it will not be a voluntary choice, but a necessity. Why? Because regular use of drugs changes the structure and function of the brain. As a result, the harm of drug addiction manifests itself in the violation of the ability to think normally and feel good without drugs, and also to control one's behavior. All this makes a person go for everything for the next dose.
When a person first takes a drug, it usually happens consciously, with a full understanding of what he does. However, a drug addict is the same as a mentally ill person. All drugs act differently, but the use of any of them leads to a disruption in the functioning of the brain. Most often, there is no difference what kind of drug to use, since most of them cause the same negative consequences for the brain. Our brain is designed in such a way as to motivate us to repeat such actions as, for example, eating, causing us to associate these actions with a sense of satisfaction. When the connection between the action and the pleasant sensations it causes is established, the brain remembers it and makes us repeat it again and again, without even thinking about why we are doing it. The harm of drugs deeply and imperceptibly takes its roots because drugs also activate the centers responsible for the pleasure that we receive, and we begin to perceive them just like food or sleep. So, even if the first drug intake was a voluntary decision, then there comes a physical need for their regular use, that is, dependence.
Harm of addiction. Are there effective methods of drug treatment?
Effective methods for the treatment of drug addiction exist, although 100% effective means, which completely cure the addict, have not yet been invented. Addiction is a disease that can be treated, but most often it is chronic. Like patients with other chronic diseases, for example, those with diabetes or heart problems, drug addicts are gradually adapting to their condition, sometimes with the help of medications. Drug addiction is successfully treated with the help of psychotherapy aimed at convincing addicts to change their behavior and consciousness. In addition, the harm of drug addiction can be overcome and medication, because Depending on tobacco, alcohol, heroin and other opiates, certain medications can help. For each patient an individual treatment program is required, which is developed depending on the narcotic used by the patient, as well as on his personal characteristics - character, views, beliefs, etc. Most people suffering from drug addiction require several courses of treatment to obtain a positive result. Scientists have developed 13 principles for the effective treatment of drug addiction . Treatment programs should be based on them.
To be cured, is it really necessary for a drug addict to want it himself? Unfortunately, the majority of drug addicts go to treatment in special clinics only because the court appointed them compulsory treatment, or because they were forced by relatives. However, doctors have good news - according to the research, those who are treated in clinics immediately fall into rather harsh conditions, in which drug addicts are simply forced to fight their dependence on drugs, that is why the positive effect of treatment is quite possible, if the addict himself was not going to be treated.
Can I quickly cure a person from drug addiction? No, you can not - just as it can not be done in a couple of hours so that a man has a broken arm or leg. Addiction is a chronic disease, the same as diabetes or, say, asthma. Some are able to stop using drugs themselves, without the help of doctors, some stop using them after treatment in the clinic, and sometimes only one course is enough. However, most drug addicts require long-term treatment with repeated courses - just like a patient with severe asthma needs to undergo special treatment at the clinic on a regular basis. To drug addicts who are trying to recover from their addiction, it is very important to understand that the harm of drug addiction is very strong and even if they broke and a relapse occurred, this is not a reason to give up everything. It is better to continue treatment and, if necessary, to adjust its program. Almost everyone sometimes descends from the right path - people with diabetes can also break a diet or miss an insulin shot, and the disease will immediately become worse. You just need to find the strength to start all over again and, finally, to overcome the harm of drugs, and not to think that now everything is lost and the treatment failed.
Harm of addiction. How to determine that a person is sick with addiction?
To find out if a person has problems with dependence on drugs or alcohol, you can ask him some questions. Answers to these questions will not help to identify drug addiction with absolute accuracy, but a positive response to any of them may be a signal about the beginning of problems that may require the intervention of a professional narcologist. Here is a list of these questions.
- Have you ever traveled in a car driven by a person who was in a state of drug or alcoholic intoxication (including yourself)?
- Do you take alcohol or drugs in order to relieve tension, relax, feel more comfortable in the company?
- Do you drink alcohol or drugs alone?
- Have you ever forgotten what you did after taking drugs or alcohol?
- Have your friends or relatives advised you to use less alcohol or drugs?
- Have you ever been in trouble in a state of alcoholic or narcotic intoxication?
Source material for the article: "Brain and Addiction" .